Do Humorous Airline Safety Demos Help Or Hurt Safety?

Funny Or Die uploaded a video on Tuesday entitled “There’s Nothing Funny About Flight Safety.” The video is about a flight attendant who keeps cracking jokes during the safety demo, but then later in the flight passengers realize they don’t actually recall anything from the demo:

Obviously they’re poking fun at the airlines, and in particular Southwest. Like this flight attendant:

Or this flight attendant:

Or this one:

Or this one:

That raises the question as to whether humor in safety announcements helps or hurts safety. I can see both sides. On one hand humor can be distracting and take away from the message of the safety demo. At the same time, humor can be engaging, and can cause people to actually pay attention when they might otherwise zone out.

Personally I think the above demos are probably a bit too engaging and distracting. There are some safety videos which I think strike a better balance. For example, Air New Zealand’s safety videos are fresh and engaging without being overly distracting, in my opinion:

But I do think the Funny Or Die video addresses an interesting topic.

Where do you stand — are humorous safety videos more engaging or distracting?

Comments

  1. I think that this will just engage the people that usually don’t pay attention to the video more. However, to be honest, if the plane crashes(not just a single engine failure or heavy turbulence) its just up to luck if you survive or not.

  2. I flew 3-4 flights with Air NZ this past month and on each flight, everyone zoned out during the safety video. Maybe the past ones met the balance but not this surfing one.

  3. I like the funny ones – most people don’t pay attention and this might help to get (at least some) to watch… especially in places with lots of first-time-flyers, i.e. Asia, anything that stops people from getting up during take-off and landing or opening exit doors is very welcome!
    …and it makes me smile – that’s a good thing, right?

  4. I doubt it makes one lick of difference. Being more entertained for the few who watch is no assurance that anyone is safer. And being told safety information in the first place is similarly no guarantee that anyone is safer, either. Most people ignore the videos and safety presentations, anyway. And they make little difference when your plane crashes.

  5. Was interested to see a duty cabin crew member wearing shorts in the first Southwest clip – not come across that before.

    I don’t mind the entertainment, but I don’t think it gels well with the reason for doing a safety brief. Given the raucous laughter in the videos, you’d easily miss bits.

    That said, safety briefs are for unfamiliar flyers, and those on unfamiliar aircraft types.

    And, in the event something crisis like does happen in the air, most people will be too caught up in panic/fear to independently recall the safety brief. That’s why the cabin crew constantly give instructions/refresher to pax during crisis events. Even then, people will still do stupid things, like deciding to reclaim all their cabin baggage (and slow down emergency egress) before getting off the plane after a critical event, despite cabin crew repeatedly telling them to leave it.

    So, my preference is to keep the safety brief short and sweet, and given mostly with a straight face (a joke going in or out ain’t going to be an issue, but avoid turning it into a stand-up routine by goofing it the whole way through).

    Plus you probably noticed that the Southwest briefs in the videos shown tended to recycle a fair few jokes, with just some variation from person to person. Given its clear they get a sort of template jokey script, I imagine that gets old fast if you have been flying regularly with them.

  6. Humour is great when it comes to engaging the regular flyers who otherwise would tune out the safety demos. But humour actually tends to confuse those folks who are infrequent or inexperienced flyers and actually want to know more about safety on board.

    Some years ago, I did a study for our airline on what type of safety demo actually engages passengers most. Keep in mind that our passenger profile was very different than many of the bigger alliance carriers – we transported primarily infrequent African flyers. Nonetheless, the results were overwhelmingly in favour of not only avoiding humour or other extraneous content, but also heavily in favour of live demos rather than safety videos. Passengers are more likely to ask questions and seek clarification from the crew they have seen actually using the demo equipment physically than they are to flag down a crew member after watching a video.

    As for those who say that the safety demo doesn’t really help in an emergency, that isn’t really the entire point of it. An equally important component is to reassure the passengers of the airline and crew’s professionalism ahead of the flight, which is something that we found makes the entire flight experience more positive for nervous fliers.

    I’m not saying humour or videos are wrong, but rather that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all airlines and all passengers. If an airline believes that their approach engages their passengers best, then that is the best approach for them. If they start viewing the safety demo as a regulatory chore whose blandness can be diluted by humour, I would seriously question their commitment to safety.

  7. I actually think they help people to pay attention. Normally during the briefing I don’t pay attention, but if there are a few jokes thrown in I might. However, not the same jokes over and over again. Just something to keep the audience engaged.

  8. As someone who trains professionally at work with a spouse who teaches at the university level I can promise you, if you don’t get a potential learner’s attention there is a 100% chance they will not absorb the lesson. It would be nice if people cared about their safety enough to take some responsiblity for it in an aircraft but that’s a different issue. Those likely to act if there is an issue are those who would be paying attention during routine explanations and bored out of their minds. Making the process less painful for them by engaging is rewarding your target audience.

  9. I like the Air NZ safety videos and I think they are effective at getting eyeballs onto the screen when the safety clip is running, both ‘old time’ flyers and novices.

    But then they have to manage the eyeballs and listening. I think the surfing version is way too distracting, and pretty. Very easy to focus on the video and tune out the sound.

    The Bear Grills version I though was great – witty, but focussed and you had to listen to get what was going on..

  10. My concern with the ANZ ones is that most of them are so abstracted that the things they’re showing aren’t even happening on a plane any more — I think it is realistic to assume that people are more likely to remember images of stuff (putting a life vest on, for example) happening in the context of an airplane on screen, and are more likely to be able to quickly connect that to an emergency situation onboard later, than if they see images of it happening in some totally different environment.

  11. Most of the humor that videos have is no longer funny after first viewing, if it was ever funny at all (Looking at you, Delta). If trying to add a bit of humor makes the video longer, I am going to be more annoyed and zone out. Keep it simple. Tell me what I need to know. Don’t try to be cute.

  12. I have an idea. Create safety videos that show realistic problem sitations. Like a plane that has to land just after takeoff because of smoke in the cabin or a plane that has to make an emergency landing without landing gear or on water. Show how those who never paid attention have no idea what to do, but those who know where the exits are and how to use the masks or flotation devices, most of all the crew, are the ones who have a better chance of surviving. I would stop short of showing blood, dead bodies, or people screaming.

  13. Yeah, I agree with Sammy. I’ve flown with Air NZ a few times in the past few weeks, and I tuned out. Their past videos were better.

  14. I look at the exits when I sit down and ignore the safety talk. How many times do you have to hear it? The funny ones are the highlight of the flight.

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